Friday, June 22, 2012

A new twist to an old tragedy


I take no pleasure whatsoever in this news from Philadelphia.

A Philadelphia priest was convicted Friday of one count of child endangerment, becoming the first cleric in the Catholic Church’s long-running clergy abuse scandal to be tried and found guilty of shielding molesters.

Monsignor William Lynn, 61, was acquitted of conspiracy and a second endangerment charge after a three-month trial that had seemed on the verge of a hung jury two days earlier.

. . .

Lynn was the first church official to be tried for what many see as an unaddressed crime in the decades-long tally of abuse throughout the church: no U.S. bishops or officials who covered up and enabled the abuse has ever been held accountable in criminal court. Both prosecutors and victims advocates claimed victory.

. . .

During the trial, jurors and the public heard graphic testimony form nearly 20 victims of abuse at the hands of priests in the five-county archdiocese, which includes about 1.5 million Catholics. They also saw thousands of church records about clergy abuse that had been hidden away by Lynn and others, mainly during the tenure of former Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Lynn’s defense team argued that he was ordered by Bevilacqua not to say anything about the abuse and had no authority to removed priests from the ministry.

“I did my best with what I could do,” Lynn testified in his defense. His lawyers said they will appeal.

Prosecutors argued that did not prevent him from reporting the assaults to authorities, and they said his consistent efforts to downplay abuse claims and thwart inquiries was criminal.

Bevilacqua, who was archbishop from 1988 to his retirement in 2003, died in January on the eve of the trial, and many saw Lynn as something of a stand-in for the man prosecutors wanted to charge but could not.

. . .

In New York, meanwhile, charges that the Orthodox Jewish community is routinely covering up child sexual abuse are making headlines.

And in Missouri, Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is scheduled to go on trial in September on charges that he failed to report suspicions that one of his priests might be an abuser. The priest is facing child pornography charges, but if Finn is convicted, he would be the first bishop ever found guilty in the abuse scandal.

There's more at the link.

This verdict won't undo the harm done to countless thousands of victims of this criminal tragedy . . . but perhaps, at last, some of those ultimately responsible for its cover-up and decades-long continuance may be brought to book.  That, in itself, is progress.

Peter

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

So when will the law enforcement start working on islam and all the abuse that goes on in THEIR churches?
and you do not BELIVE it is going on in their churches.

Peter said...

I'm sure there are many scandals at which fingers may be pointed, in many churches and other institutions. However, pointing fingers at the splinters in others' eyes won't help us deal with the planks in our own (cf. Matthew 7:3-5).

Mikael said...

Every last one of them should be put on trial and convicted, and the pope should be tried at the hague for crimes against humanity. He was personally involved in creating this situation.

Shrimp said...

"Every last one of them should be put on trial and convicted..."

Well, I'm glad you've decided that the concepts of 'rule of law' and 'innocent until proven guilty' aren't needed any more. We'll give them all a fair trial and first class hanging--no matter what.

As to the pope, I'm sure you have evidence of his personal involvement?

Anonymous said...

Premature ejaculation Peter?
Priest, Your problem is obvious.

Peter said...

I'll leave it to my readers to make their own judgment about anonymous comments that are intended to insult - although in this case the comment makes no sense, so the insult fails.

I suspect 'Anonymous' at 11.16 a.m. is a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Catholic Church who can't handle the thought that anyone can disagree with one or more of its positions or actions. Sad, really. He/she clearly hasn't read or understood my articles on the clergy child sex abuse scandal - or, perhaps, won't allow him/herself to understand them, because if he/she did, it might threaten his/her own security of belief. That's a not uncommon reaction.

However, I have absolutely no idea what 'premature ejaculation' has to do with the subject of this article, or any comment to it. Reader suggestions are invited.

Mikael said...

Shrimp - I meant the ones who were involved, and I used convicted because they've been pussyfooted around for far too long.

And the fucking vile excuse for person that is the pope was, in his previous capacity, as head of the renamed inquisition(Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), the one who set the policies to hide these pedofiles, attack the victims, etc, and was personally involved in hiding them and moving them around!

Peter said...

Mikael, I don't know that the present Pope was personally involved in covering up these crimes, as you allege. I've no doubt that some in the Vatican were involved, but they would probably have been lower-level officials covering their own tracks. It's very unlikely that knowledge of the scandal reached senior clergy until the whole thing blew up in the press.

However, I agree that there was a great deal of official 'pussyfooting' involved in the USA and elsewhere (for example, Ireland), where the authorities sided with the institution of the Church to protect it rather than the victims. I'd love to be able to say that in the light of this scandal, that'll never happen again . . . but it will. It's happening right now with the Hasidic Jewish community in New York, as you probably know.

Mikael said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_delictis_gravioribus

Shrimp said...

Still don't see how the pope was personally involved in the ways you claim.

1)He wrote the letter you indicated.
2)The letter called for 8 offenses to be brought before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Unless I've completely missed it, nowhere in that letter does it say that the offenses should not or could not be handled by authorities outside the Church, or that authorities outside the Church could no be contacted in the case of a crime--it merely reserved the authority of the Church to run its own investigation and to mete out punishments based upon its own investigations.

Some of the offenses could not and would not be dealt with by the authorities outside the Church. The first four, for example, are irrelevant to secular authorities. They'd be powerless to act. The very last one, by definition, is a crime. Yet it doesn't say that the authorities are not to be notified.

So, what was the point?

Mikael said...

Actually the letter specifically talks about hiding the crimes from authorities outside the church, with a reference for prescription time for the crime! In other words keep it quiet until the priest can no longer be prosecuted. Specifically for sexual offenses against minors!

Shrimp said...

"...letter specifically talks about hiding the crimes from authorities outside the church..."

Where does it say that?

"...with a reference for prescription time for the crime! In other words keep it quiet until the priest can no longer be prosecuted..."

Again, where does it say that?

The issue of prescription (specifically on the issue of sexual offenses against minors) means that the normal ten year time limit doesn't begin until the child is no longer a minor (turns 18). It wasn't reducing it, it was extending it. In other words, the minor so violated has a longer period of time in which to file a claim against the priest.

And, again, nowhere does it say that in the case of a crime (that secular authorities would have authority to prosecute) that the authorities are to be left out.

Mikael said...

It says these crimes can be judged only by tribunals composed of priests, this means keeping it within the church, and not informing outside authorities.

And oh right the secrecy part is in this:
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/churchdocs/EpistulaEnglish.htm

Note: "Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret."

Also note that by canon law when he was head of CDF, all bishops had to report all sex abuses cases to him. (IE: When he was cardinal Ratzinger). Note how he kept his mouth shut about them.

Shrimp said...

I'll have to admit, that does seem to be the case, based upon my understanding of the link you just provided. I'm still not entirely sure that it says that outside authorities cannot be contacted, although the "pontifical secret" could definitely be construed to mean that.

One thing I will note is the sentence immediately following the sentence about pontifical secrets:

"Through this letter... ...it is hoped not only that more grave delicts will be entirely avoided, but especially that ordinaries and hierarchs have solicitous pastoral care to look after the holiness of the clergy and the faithful even through necessary sanctions."

In other words, they were hoping that they were able to clean it up, AND keep it quiet.

Not the best method, for sure.

In 2002, the following year, the USCCB adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, most likely in response to the lukewarm (at best) attention the CDF seemed to be paying.

Interesting.

Peter said...

@Mikael and Shrimp: See the following Wikipedia articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontifical_secret

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crimen_sollicitationis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_delictis_gravioribus

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/resources/resource-files/churchdocs/SacramentorumAndNormaeEnglish.htm

These resources should clarify any misconceptions.

Mikael said...

Also it should be noted that he's been involved(in a lesser capacity) in setting these things since the 1960s it's not just since the 2001 letters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Benedict_XVI

He was part of the second vatican council in 1962-65. (As a theological consultant).

He was the head of the CDF since 1981.